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Gabriel WeissProtein Synthesis: an Epic on the Cellular Level (1971)

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Directed by Gabriel Weiss. One of the strangest, fun, and perhaps most unforgettable films in the science genre was this, produced by University of California at San Diego chemistry professor Kent Wilson, and choreographed by Weiss’ future wife and 1969 America’s Junior Miss, Jackie Benington. After a short description of the interaction between “stars” 30s Ribosome, mRNA, and Initiator Factor One by Stanford’s Nobel Prize-winning Paul Berg, the camera moves to an open field at Stanford University, where 200 students, fortified by complimentary wine, begin a Bacchanalian dance replicating the process of protein formation by RNA molecules that carry the DNA code. Benington kept some degree of order by making sure that each string of ‘processes’ was led by a student in the advanced modern dance program at he university, but clearly the dancers are barely controlled, spurred on the by a free-music band of musicians, who, clearly inspired by their philosophical and geographical proximity to the Haight-Ashbury and the Merry Pranksters’ La Honda, perform a raucous piece called the ‘Protein Jive Sutra’. The film is, in addition to being a superior example of affective filmmaking, a landmark film defining the early 1970s San Francisco Bay Area art, performance, and alternative lifestyles culture. Director Gabriel Weiss, a multifaceted individual who eventually became a doctor of internal medicine and led a twenty-piece jazz band, stated thirty years later that perhaps the most satisfying element about the film is how well the biological model presented in the film held up over the ensuing years.

This movie is part of the collection: Academic Film Archive of North America

Director: Gabriel Weiss
Producer: Kent Wilson
Production Company: Senses Bureau
Sponsor: AFA
Audio/Visual: sound, color
Keywords: protein; DNA; RNA

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